Sustainability initiatives have become a movement since the turn of the century and is now a heavy influence on consumer behaviour. More and more, hotels are releasing green initiatives like energy smart appliances, smart showers, solar power installations, and waste diversion. You see more and more hotels publicizing and marketing themselves as environmentally friendly hotels with words like green energy, fair trade, locally sourced, and certified “green” businesses.
However, becoming an environmentally friendly hotel is not a one-size fits all concept. If you’re interested in what practices would best suit your hotel to become more sustainable, we provide you a run-down of 18 tips and strategies to bring eco-friendly best practices to your property.
Sustainability, going green, and eco-friendly can be vague in terms of what they mean for hospitality. So let’s first start off with what it means for hotels and why it’s important.
What are environmentally friendly hotels?
Environmentally friendly hotels are hotels that significantly reduce their environmental impact, or carbon footprint, through implementation of green best-practices in the different areas of their operations like maintenance, logistics, products and services. These initiatives revolve around reducing waste, saving energy, and cutting down on water usage.
There are many different ways to implement green initiatives, and can range from a high-end investment like an HVAC system, to more low-cost practices that don’t require any capital.
Why should hotels become more environmentally friendly?
It’s quite simple, hotels becoming more eco-friendly means that they will reduce their negative impact on the environment, thus playing their part in the sustainability of the future of the earth. This will also help them to cut down on costs like energy and water bills, and win trust and confidence from consumers.
In 2017, Booking.com released the findings from its global Sustainable Travel Report and found that 68% of travellers confirm they are more likely to consider choosing an accommodation knowing that it was eco-friendly. Furthermore, 65% of global travellers expressed their intention to stay in an eco-friendly accommodation at least once that year.
More and more, you see consumers willing to pay a little more for eco-friendly products or services. Tripadvisor.com, for example, has the GreenLeaders Program that showcases hotels with sustainability best practices to conscientious travellers.
Continue reading to find out more about the many different ways to improve your green best-practices across the many areas of your hotel.
Tips and strategies on making your hotel more eco-friendly
1 – Start with your team
Recruiting a “green team” at your hotel comprised of interested team members from each department to lead ongoing sustainability initiatives and measures for their respective departments. This empowers employees, gives them a sense of ownership to sustainability strategies and encourages long term adoption amongst teams. Acknowledging their efforts are important, so things like a team lunch or gift cards are a good way to reward their participation.
2- Make the recruitment process green
There are many different ways to make this process more eco-friendly.
-Make your interview process green by hosting skype or zoom calls instead of asking participants to come by – this cuts down on fossil fuels.
-Instead of printing out lengthy manuals or forms, make them all electronically available for filling out.
-Use online employment portals to track HR information and resumes instead of printing everything out.
-Ensure to highlight the hotel’s green efforts in all hiring materials and during onboarding so all new team members understand it is a priority in every day operations.
3 – Target the low hanging fruit
Your hotel probably has a few eco-friendly programs but there are always areas to improve. Consider these:
-Incentivize guests to join the rewards program by gifting a reusable branded hotel water bottle in efforts to cut down on the use of plastic bottles. It’s a great way to increase your rewards customer base while promoting a green initiative.
-Add water filling stations in main communal areas like the lobby or terrace.
-Make recycling easy – ensure recycling bins are easily accessible and easy to spot throughout the hotel.
-Introduce new signage for greener room maintenance practices. Things like “please hang this sign if you do not require any new towels” and “please hang this sign if you wish to not have your room cleaned today” are now the new norm.
4 – Ditch the water bottles
Water bottles are among some of the most environmentally damaging products on earth. Move towards filtered water dispensers, refillable bottles, and water pitchers for guests and events.
5 – Efficiency in your daily operations
Efficiency is key when it comes to an environmentally friendly hotel. This means analyzing your traditional operation practices to see what can be done to cut down on waste, power, and consumption. Consider emailing receipts, remote check-in and keyless entry, this cuts down on paper usage, producing plastic key cards, and reduces labor which all contributes to minimizing carbon footprint.
6 – Upgrade your transportation services
Here are a few things to consider when thinking about transportation:
-Add electric charging stations to your hotel parking lot
-Partner with eScooter and eBike rental companies to promote a greener way for your guests to get around and see the city
-Provide group shuttles (using hybrid or electric vehicles) to transit hubs to cut down on low-occupancy car usage
-If your hotel is considering purchasing branded vehicles or already has a fleet of luxury vehicles, consider purchasing or switching to hybrid or electric vehicles. This is a big upfront investment, but consider the amount of money you’ll save on gas in the long run, not to mention how much air pollution and fossil fuels you’ll save the world from.
7 – Automate conservation in your rooms
Like how your PMS system should automate menial tasks, automating your guest room to conserve energy takes the guesswork out of conservation. By upgrading your utilities, you’ll be able to conserve and save on costs. Here are some automation solutions that can improve your hotel’s sustainability practices:
-Smart showers limit the length of showers to a preset time and alert users when their time is reaching the end
-Switch out traditional lights with energy-saving lights with sensors to automatically turn them on or off, or brighten and dim
-Smart thermostats with occupancy sensors can adjust heating and cooling temperatures
-These room amenities now all have the capability to be connected to apps that a guest can control from a room device such as a phone or tablet and can be monitored and changed remotely, all in one place
-Consider using aerators on bathroom sinks to reduce water usage
-Replace your standard toilets for low flow or dual flush toilets
8 – Sustainable furnishings
Make the conscious effort to furnish rooms with furniture made from sustainable materials. Avoid stocking paper or styrofoam cups and provide reusable mugs and utensils. Use fair-trade, natural and organic soaps and shampoos as well as biodegradable packaging wherever possible.
9 – Compost and donate leftover food
If you aren’t composting yet, then don’t wait any longer. In the US alone, food waste is 30-40% of the total food supply in a year. Establish a composting system at your hotel, this can in turn support a sustainable gardening program. Donate unused or leftover food to local and national food banks, charities, and programs.
10 – Reduce waste at events
Cut down on trash bins at your event to force our attendees to be thoughtful on their waste disposal. Ensure to set up clearly marked recycling, composting and garbage bins at your event to reduce landfill waste.
11 – Implement reusable dinnerware and utensils
By introducing all reusable dishes and utensils, this will cut down on paper/plastic and styrofoam waste. The less garbage your hotel needs to throw out, the less your hotel needs to pay for in trash disposal. Also, choose biodegradable packaging where necessary for food packaging like cardboard take out boxes instead of styrofoam containers and paper bags instead of plastic.
12 – Shop locally
Source your food products from local farmers and food providers. This not only supports your local businesses but cuts down on carbon emissions from those large trucks hauling your food in from across the country.
13 – Runoff, the silent killer
Excess water from storms, snow, and irrigation that doesn’t evaporate or get absorbed into the groundwater is a silent killer when it comes to the environment. This can be especially tricky if your property has lots of asphalt parking lots and concrete outdoor patios. You can counteract this by planting a rain garden and water detention pounds to collect drainage.
14 – Water with care
Using a smart irrigation system will cut down on excess watering by timing the watering. You can also cut down on overall water usage by planting drought-resistant native plants and using ground cover instead of grass. This change also reduces your need for pesticides and fertilizers.
15 – Invest in the future of green energy
Investing in green infrastructure is a big spend upfront, however this will be suitable for hoteliers that may be undergoing a renovation or facelift soon that are interested in long-term sustainability. Things like: solar panel installations, energy star-rated heating and cooling systems, geothermal cooling towers, water recovery and recycling systems come at a cost but are considered to be a long-term ROI if that’s the direction you want to take your hotel in.
16 – Keep track of your systems
It’s important to keep an eye on your systems and track usage and consumption across your property. With most modern utility systems, sensors are available for most equipment types, from furnaces to generators to HVAC systems. They come with wireless reporting systems for predictive maintenance and tracking. You’ll be able to track every system at your hotel through an ongoing program involving different levels of hotel staff, led by your maintenance department, to analyze energy consumption and waste over a period of time to better improve your operations and energy best-practices.
17 – Audit your tools
Conducting a regular audit of your equipment to ensure they are using the right amount of power when in-use, and while on standby. This will help you to identify how much energy you’re currently using, energy-saving opportunities and help you to potentially make short-term and long-term energy improvements.
This includes your appliances. If you’re running on outdated, inefficient appliances, look to replace your lineup with energy-saving appliances. Anything from refrigerators, dishwashers, freezers, washing machines to ovens.
18 – Purchase green products
Becoming a more environmentally friendly hotel doesn’t just have to do with your appliances and utilities. Consider going green in your purchasing habits. Opt for biodegradable, non-toxic products that are sustainably packaged. Things like paint, office supplies, bulbs, cleaning supplies, sanitizers, and paper products should all be included in your sustainable purchasing policy.
If your hotel is in a position of an upcoming rebrand, renovation, or just simply looking to improve your eco-friendly best practices, there are so many places to start, that range from quick fixes to higher investments. The goal here is your long-term ROI in both money and customer perception of your brand. A little bit goes a long way and it’s everyone’s responsibility to take care of the planet we live on. Whichever way you decide to choose, ensure you’re marketing your environmentally friendly hotel over our digital platforms and incorporate it into your hotel SEO. But do avoid “green-washing”. Green-washing refers to how businesses inflate and exaggerate the measures they are taking to become more eco-friendly and use it more as a marketing stunt rather than an actual long term commitment and initiative. Consumer behaviours and preferences are shifting and developing green best practices now address those new expectations – this is key in boosting your bottom line.